Taking flight: Painful rite of passage


When my children were still quite young, one of our favorite episodes of Winnie The Pooh was the story of Cassie, the baby owl, growing old enough to take flight for the very first time.
Grouchy old Rabbit had become quite sweet while caring for the baby owl, and did everything possible to keep that tiny bird on safe ground, even going so far as physically restraining the little bird.
It’s time. Cassie kept sweetly insisting that the time had come for her to try out those wings, and Rabbit kept insisting that it was not safe.
I still remember that exhilaration of watching my children shout, “Wheeeeee!” as that baby owl finally soared in flight. Poor old Rabbit was heartbroken, reduced to tears.
We raise our children to set them free, to leave the nest just as soon as they are ready. For me, that flight from the nest is now symbolic and true for my own children. I feel a great kinship to Grouchy old Rabbit.
“Why is Wabbit cwying, Mommy?” I remember my little boy asking the very first time we watched this particular episode.
I tried to explain that Rabbit was very, very sad because Cassie the Owl was big enough to fly, and Rabbit was afraid she might fly so far that she may never return to the nice nest that had been built for her.
“Oh, Cassie will come back to take a bubble bath every day!” his little sister Caroline said with great certainty.
I remember all of this with such clarity. It seems it was just a matter of months ago. The years have flown, as we knew they would, and now my owls are ready to take flight.
Preparations. Cort has moved most of his necessities to a small apartment about 75 miles away, with classes starting for him at DeVry University July 16. We are down to the final days of list-making, shopping and getting him packed for his own symbolic flight.
I have found that when it comes to college, “school shopping” takes on an entirely new meaning. Forget the simplicity of paper, pens, backpacks – consider laptops, air-conditioners and futon beds. It makes those olden days of crayons and markers look mighty affordable in comparison!
For Cort, those apartment necessities include pill bottles and dosing schedules as he continues to fight the health challenges of Lyme Disease.
Caroline’s college classes don’t start until mid-September, so there is a bit of time for this old rabbit to fluff up the nest and prepare for another owl to take flight.
One last time. One recent evening, several of Cort’s life-long buddies were here, boys who are all welcome members of our family.
I heard Cort say, “Hey, you guys wanna throw?” which is the more modern way of asking if the guys want to play pitch-and-catch. Before long, the baseball gloves and baseballs were hunted up, and the sounds of my son’s youth filled the farm, ball smacking into leather, shouts, laughter.
“Geeze! Ya shoulda had that one!” the guys chided one of their buddies.
“I’m rusty – what can I say?” he hollered as he ran for the ball.
“Hey, Mom! Jared’s rusty! Ya got any WD-40?” Cort laughingly yelled to me as I watered and weeded flowers nearby.
I didn’t want the sun to set that night. I wanted that day to last forever. As dusk settled in and the fireflies began their night show, Caroline called from the kitchen that strawberry shortcake was ready for anyone who wanted it.
Moving on. I felt sort of like Rabbit, putting down my watering can, realizing that my little ones are quite independently doing the bigger things that make up a life. It’s a tremendous cause for celebration, as life moves on just as it should.
I won’t be crying in my handkerchief like Rabbit, and though I know that tears might fall, I will count those as tears of joy. I just might stock up on bubble bath, though!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.